everyone eats the same meal
You might be tempted to make different meals to appeal to the different taste preferences in your family. Not only does this create way too much work for yourself, this practice doesn’t help your child learn to enjoy new flavours. At the same time, you do want to be mindful of your child’s current preferences.
Here are some strategies to serve the same meal to everyone while also being respectful of your child’s preferences:
Ask for input.
I highly recommend instituting a family meeting at the same time each week to develop a meal plan for the week. At this meeting, each family member can give their input for meals they would like to eat. This way, your child feels respected but you still retain the final decision making power. If your child is old enough, you could even hand over the task to her of making the dinner she chooses. Having a meal plan also allows your child the opportunity to anticipate what will be served that day. The more informed a child is about what’s going on in his life, the more cooperative he will be. Surprises can be difficult for children. They like to know what to expect.
Choose customized meals
Plan to serve meals that can be customizable at the table or during dinner preparation:
• Soft tacos with choice of filling: meat sauce, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, salsa, sour cream, cheese
• Mini pizzas on pitas or English muffins: each person can put the toppings they like on their pizzas
• Salad bar: spinach, lettuce, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, veggies, choice of dressing
• Individual omelettes with choice of fillings: red peppers, mushrooms, ham, etc
Serve meals family style
Family style meals are where the different dishes are placed on the table and passed around for each family member to help herself to the amount of food she would like to put on her plate. Again, the follows the guidelines of providing the food and allowing your child to decide how much of each food he would like to eat. Younger children may need help to serve up the food but they should direct the adult as to how much food to put on their plate.
Have something familiar at the table (bread & butter)
Sometimes the meal you’ve chosen to serve is a one-pot dish: perhaps lasagne, a casserole, or a stew. This inherently makes it more difficult for your child to pick-and-choose what they would like to eat, especially if they have difficulty with their food touching! For these meals, it’s a good idea to also have a familiar food on the table. For example: bread and butter. That way there’s always a “safe food” for your child to eat and he doesn’t feel backed into a corner where the only choice he has is to eat the scary new food or go hungry.
No short-order cooking
Many parents will rush back to the kitchen to prepare a different plate of food if their child rejects what was initially offered. Again, this doesn’t help a child to learn to like new foods. They will just learn that they will end up getting they already know and like if they refuse to eat what’s offered. If you’ve provided a safe food at the table, then your child can fill up on that. I know it can be hard to watch your child just fill up on bread at one meal but remember, we are working towards the long-term goal!
What do you think about the idea of instituting a weekly family meeting to create a meal plan?
If you’re ready to go forward with having a weekly family meeting, write down the day and time you will have it:
Make sure to keep to the meeting like you would an appointment to go see the Doctor!
Brainstorm at least 3 meals that are customizable to each family member: